It’s a small, small world: Knox’s Mitt Romney connection

“Be suspicious about anything that everyone else believes.”

-Patrick Graham ’62

If we’re going by the self-reported data, Knox is a pretty liberal campus. I’d say it’s hard to dispute that, though we do have political organizations spanning a wide range of the political spectrum. But as I found out in recent weeks, we can’t discount the possibility of connections to the other side of the aisle.

Knox likes to tout its connection to President Barack Obama. He gave a commencement speech here, and he holds an honorary doctorate (just like Stephen Colbert). But earlier this term, what I thought was the election story of the year fell right into my lap — and at first, it seemed to me entirely antithetical to our conception of Knox.

I was perusing the Knox website, looking over the profiles of our trustees, when I stopped at one of the life trustees (a former trustee given an honorary title, much like Roger Taylor is now president emeritus) — Patrick Graham, class of 1962. His profile is rather unassuming; there was no photo and a brief description. But here’s the part that caught my eye: co-founder and former director of Bain & Company. The precursor to Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital. Yeah, that one.

So I did some digging and called him up. Turns out that Graham was a Galesburg native, and not only did he help to start Bain & Company — he personally recruited Romney to the consulting firm and later pushed today’s GOP nominee toward political life.

Before I did my reporting, I was in something of a state of shock. To my knowledge, “Bain” was a scummy word associated with questionable business practices and “shipping jobs overseas.” But then I did the reporting. And then the Knox connection made more sense.

It turns out that when Graham and Bill Bain went to set up their consulting firm, they aimed for a more ethical business model, and they felt they had the brains to be just as successful as the Boston Consulting Group, the well-established firm they left. Most telling was Graham’s explanation of what he learned at Knox: learning how to question predominant assumptions.

Full article: The man behind Mitt Romney